Great Is Thy Faithfulness

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Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. – James 1:17

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindness indeed never ceases, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.… Lamentations 3:21-23

We have a faithful God whose lovingkindness never ceases, whose compassions never fail, whose faithfulness is new every morning. This is a God in whom there is no variableness, no shadow of turning. We can count on it in sunshine and in shadow.

As of yesterday, I have been out of the hospital for a full year. Yet, in 2014, I spent at least a third of the year in the hospital. I am very grateful for my health this year. Yes, my kidneys have failed; I have dialysis every day; and I am being evaluated for a kidney transplant. But what I know from my experience with serious illness followed by relatively good health is that, through it all, God has been faithful.

I love the way the hymn says it: “Thou changeth not; Thy compassions they fail not. As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.”

Thanks be to a faithful God.

Listen to the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” on YouTube.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fzntMXAGTVA&autoplay=1

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Amazing Grace

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Struggling for justice and mercy is not easy. Kelly Renee Gissendaner, who was executed in Georgia despite a plea for mercy from Pope Francis, sang “Amazing Grace” until she was given a lethal injection. She was put to death at 12:21 a.m. Wednesday after a flurry of last-minute appeals failed, the first women to be executed in Georgia in seventy years.

This blog will neither affirm nor condemn the death penalty. Rather, it will mark this execution for its historical, moral, ethical and spiritual significance. For after seventy years, it is a significant event.

Like thousands of others, I kept vigil in my home last night, praying, waiting for word, and hoping that Georgia’s Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court or a federal appeals court would affirm requests for a stay of execution.

Jeff Hullinger, a journalist with NBC station WXIA who witnessed the execution, later told reporters that Gissendaner appeared “very, very emotional.” He added: “She was crying and then she was sobbing and then broke into song as well as into a number of apologies … When she was not singing, she was praying.”

Thousands pleaded for mercy. Others called for justice. In times like these, we must hope that justice and mercy is always a struggle for our nation and for us, as individuals.

“…whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:8

“. . . Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering . . . and all for your love’s sake. Amen.” ~ From the Book of Common Prayer

May each of us find comfort in listening to the hymn, “Amazing Grace” on YouTube.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=C2arm5ydeJc

All Around Me Are People

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All around me are people. All about me is my work. There is always so much to do, so many important things on my plate. With a full and bright career, I have been blessed. But when the work day is over, I face my loneliness. I face my losses. I acknowledge that those who loved me are simply not around anymore.

This wasn’t my life plan, not what I would have chosen for myself. Yet, it is reality. It is raw and it is lonely. I wonder where to turn, but in the state I am currently in, there is nowhere to turn, no one who can help. I am in this place alone.

Even the words of the Psalmist don’t seem to help that much: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3 NIV

The comfort of friends doesn’t help much. Prayer doesn’t help much. Tears don’t help much. Even working my fingers to the bone doesn’t help me forget that I feel so alone. Still, I am comforted when I meditate on these words in 2 Corinthians and in Romans 8.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;Β Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9; 18
For I believe that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Romans 8:18-23

Whenever I am feeling loneliness and despair, I think of these verses from the Bible, and I remember the words of the hymn, “Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”

Listen to the hymn “Come, Ye Disconsolate” on YouTube:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?autoplay=1&v=mNqzhfB4y1I

Dread Dreary Weather? Get Over It.

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The weather has been dreary and rainy for several days. Looking out the window reminds one more of winter than fall. There is none of that October’s bright blue weather that marks the autumn season. Leaves are not changing colors yer. It has been drizzling rain all day and all night. My husband says, “It’s not really raining. There’s just rain in the air.” Even more disconcerting is that Accuweather doesn’t forecast the least chance of sunshine for over a week.

Weather can be a bit depressing at times, especially if you want to be outdoors in the sunshine planting pansies and mums, walking through a corn maze, or browsing a pumpkin patch.

Research seems to confirm the weather’s effectΒ on a person’s mood. For instance, researcher Marie Connolly (2013) found that women who were interviewed on days β€œwith more rain . . . reported statistically and substantively decreasing life satisfaction.” On days with lower temperatures and no rain, the same subjects reported higher life satisfaction.

There are so many things that cause us to have situational depression, and many of them are serious. The weather should not be one of them. People often say, “Get over it!” Where the weather is concerned, that might not be bad advice. The weather is as changeable as the moments in a day. I believe that we can just accept the weather we are having, find it within ourselves to embrace the changeable weather, and chalk it up to God’s marvelous and complex earth.

Still, the Psalmist shares the remedy for depression. He acknowledges it as real, and he hints at the seriousness of a soul that is cast down. But he also admonishes us to hope in God, a God who knows our emotions, cares about our souls, and offers us fresh hope no matter what the weather does.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I again shall praise him, my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:11

The Song of the Soul

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After he was cut by his high school basketball team, he went home, locked himself in his room, and cried. Even Michael Jordan knew what it felt like to fail. As a teenager, Michael Jordan experienced a wounded soul. Oh, he probably prepared himself physically to try again, and he likely steeled his emotions to push himself to succeed, but I have a notion that without soul, he might never have become the superstar he was. He could not have made it with a crushed soul. Somewhere along the way he cared for his soul, and it healed from that early rejection.

It is very important that I learn to care for my soul, because it is the very center of who I am and who I may become. Care of the soul is not complicated, but neither is it easy. It takes alone time, time for meditation, time for self-reflection. It takes prayer and personal worship. It takes recognizing the beauty around me and breathing deeply. It takes avoiding the things that wound the soul . . . exposure to violence, noise, holding anger, seeking revenge, constant busy-ness.

In his book “Care of the Soul’, Thomas Moore says that “loss of soul” is a critical malady of the twentieth century. When we neglect our souls, the repercussions are “addictions, obsessions, violence, and loss of meaning.”

Caring for my soul is important for my spiritual, emotional and physical health. Caring for my soul is one of life’s necessities.

Macrina Wiederkehr shares a great deal of wisdom about the care of the soul. She writes about it in “Gold in Your Memories.”

There is a way that the soul can get crowded out of one’s day. The soul is a bit shy and does not demand center stage. She lives a life of her own, and yet there are soulprints in every fiber of your being, even in things you’ve forgotten. The soul is the keeper of memories. She knows where beauty is stored. She contains the memories of your entire life. Deep in your unconscious she stands guard. If you are in need of a particular memory she can reveal it to you and help you to bear both the beauty and the pain. She knows all about the gold in your memories.Β 

I plan to make one promise to myself: to make room in every day for the care of my soul. It really is important that I learn to listen to the song of my soul. It’s music directs my way and makes for a pleasant passage.

Seasons of the Heart

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I am waiting excitedly for the next season, looking for cooler, brisker breezes, looking at the leaves on every tree for any sign of color change. Autumn is my favorite time of year, so I watch for the season to begin its grand display

The golds, the burgundies, the rust colors are all welcomed sights to me. So soon it will be a season in full force, with bonfires, hay rides,Β corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and nice warm cups of tea. Autumn is s comforting season, a time for getting ready to create new holiday memories around a thanksgiving feast.

Marina Wiederkehr writes of other kinds of seasons, the seasons of the heart. Her writing teaches us that there are seasons within our hearts, seasons that change as life changes. This is what she expresses:

The seasons of my heart change like the seasons of the fields. There are seasons of wonder and hope, seasons of suffering and love, seasons of healing. There are seasons of dying and rising, seasons of faith.
― Macrina Wiederkehr, “Seasons of Your Heart: Prayers and Reflections, Revised and Expanded”

I welcome the seasons of my heart as something that makes me know I am fully alive and completely engaged with my emotions and my spirituality. Knowing the changes of the heart’s seasons and embracing them as they come is a healthy state of being. Thanks be to God for a heart that is changeable and welcoming of every emotion.

Help of the Helpless, Abide with Me

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“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”            – Maya Angelou

I have asked myself many times how I would survive end stage kidney disease. There were a few times when I actually believed I would not survive. In 2014, the picture for me was dismal, and on several occasions, which I have no memory of, my husband thought he had lost me.

Now, a year later, I am thriving. I am living life with a passion I never thought possible. I feel like I am a small miracle, and I am facing life with big hope.

I know the reason for all this. Without any doubt, I believe that my health is a product of prayer. When I got sick, I was serving on staff at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. That congregation, and my pastor, Wendell Griffen, literally prayed me to renewed health and new life. There are no words that can describe the many ways they cared for me. But they did something even greater for me. They modeled the power of prayer, something I believed in, but had little experience with.

I am convinced that my current relationship with God, one that I nurture every morning, is a direct result of New Millennium’s faith and action. They taught me a lot about approaching God and abiding with God. When I moved away, and was without them, I did face a personal crisis of faith. In that time I learned a timeless truth, “When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.”

I often remember the text of the hymn, “Abide with Me.”

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I seeβ€”
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Please listen to this hymn on YouTube at this link:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?autoplay=1&v=i5nbq_VEea0

Feeling Small

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There’s no shame is feeling small, but it can feel uncomfortable. So many things in life diminish us, making us feel small and insignificant. Losing a job can do it. Being treated poorly in a relationship can do it. Retirement from a successful career can do it. Feeling small just happens sometimes. It helps me to remember this quote from Aeschylus, “From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.”

I watched a hummingbird outside my kitchen window this morning. He is the smallest of the hummingbirds that come to our feeders. He is a beautiful hummingbird, clothed in green and black iridescent feathers.

Amazingly, hummingbirds flap their wings about 80 times per second, and their heart rate is 1,260 beats per minute. Hummingbirds can fly right, left, up, down, backwards, and even upside down. They are also able to hover by flapping their wings in a figure-8 pattern.

Hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring between three to five inches. In fact, the smallest is the bee hummingbird, which weighs less than a U.S. penny. And yet, the hummingbird makes perhaps the longest migratory journey of any bird in the world. At just over 3 in long, feisty Rufous hummingbirds travel 3,900-miles one-way.

There is a lesson here for those of us who have days when we feel small and insignificant. It’s a common feeling for those of us who once had busy, exciting careers,Β and now find retirement to be a bit difficult. I have heard some of my friends speak this kind of discontent in various ways . . . “I feel used.” “I feel discarded.” “I feel small.”

I definitely understand feeling small, which is why I love the wisdom of Immanuel Kant who said, “Look closely. The beautiful may be small.”

The Glory of Being Alone

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Today is my birthday. I don’t want to be alone. Instead, I want all of my friends around me for a grand party. That, of course, isn’t going to happen. But it did cause me to think about being alone, something I used to dread. These days, living far away from my son, my grandchildren and my long-time friends, I am learning how to be alone.

Sometimes, this journey we call life is a lonely one. It feels as if we are traveling alone, without a companion, without a comforter. What we hold inside remains silent, because we honestly believe that there is no one to hear us. The inner pain we sometimes experience remains hidden, because we believe that no one will listen to our laments. The journey can indeed be lonely.

But I love the words of Paul Tillich, who speaks of solitude as opposed to loneliness, who refers to aloneness as both pain and glory.

Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.
― Paul Tillich

How do we find the glory of being alone, that state of being that welcomes solitude as a way to better know ourselves and to more fully draw near to God? I believe it takes time, a bit of discipline, and a great deal of prayer. With that, we will find that solitude is a cherished way to be, a way to grow and change from inside the depths of our soul.

Though we often feel we need another person to talk to, perhaps we don’t, at least sometimes. Being alone can be important. It can be that glorious time when we feel at peace with ourselves and we can speak without voice.

Paul Tillich wrote:

We can speak without voice to the trees and the clouds and the waves of the sea. Without words, they respond through the rustling of leaves and the moving of clouds and the murmuring of the sea.

We have to be alone, in solitude, to hear it . . . the rustling of leaves, the moving of clouds, the murmuring of the sea. That is the glory of being alone.

Then Sings My Soul

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My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed. Β –Β Psalm 71:23 KJV

What does it really mean for the soul to sing? It’s obviously more than a vocal act. It is more than rejoicing with our lips. It is a song that arises from the very depths of our spiritual center. It doesn’t require singing on key or having a beautiful, clear tone. It has to do only with the soul.

I recall the words of the great hymn of faith:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee. How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

The song of the soul is almost too much for our finite minds to comprehend. I doubt that we do it often. Rather, we are too often occupied with the very things that steal our music. Worry. Frustration. Despondency. Overwork. Anger. Fear . . .

The list could go on and on. But there is a remedy, an act that opens our soul and fills us with song. It is the act of prayer, prayer that includes talking to God, meditating on God, considering the works of God, leaning on the power of God, listening to God, waiting for the touch of the Spirit.

If we enter into that kind of prayer, our souls will sing.

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee. How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee. How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Listen to “How Great Thou Art” on YouTube at this link:Β https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OC8484T7KyU&autoplay=1